McCartney: Labour work permit policy well intended, but too onerous

McCartney: Labour work permit policy well intended, but too onerous
Former Minister of Immigration Branville McCartney

Former minister recommends understudy program on a case-by-case basis

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Former Minister of Immigration Branville McCartney said yesterday that while the Department of Labour’s plan to require employers requesting work permits to provide evidence of their training program for Bahamians to accede to the respective positions is well intended, the policy is too onerous on businesses.

Eyewitness News Online reported yesterday the policy will be rolled out in January 2020 with an expectation for full compliance within the first quarter of the year.

McCartney suggested the planned policy should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

“It is difficult to put in place,” he told Eyewitness News Online.

“When I was in immigration, to put that in practice is going to be very onerous on the business owners for many reasons.

“That means you’re going to have to find a Bahamian that you obviously don’t have because you have to ask for a work permit for someone to come in.

McCartney said: “That person must be willing to work. It’s not going to be just for a year, but it’s going to be several years if they are doing an understudy.

“In addition to that, there is no telling whether or not that person will continue to be in that position as an employee of that company. That is the Bahamian for that period of time, so what do you do in those circumstances.”

Director of Labour John Pinder said the department has not required employers to specifically outline their training programs in the past.

He suggested he expects some initial resistance.

Pinder said if the department meets too much resistance it will recommend the government amend the Employment Act to make it a requirement.

Yesterday, McCartney also said the policy represents additional cost to employers.

“That means they will have to find the person from abroad and hire another person who really doesn’t know the job, but has to be hired to understudy. And that’s if you can find that person,” the former minister said.

He continued: “It has to be dealt with on a case by case basis. You can’t have that principle or that policy across the board. You can’t do that because there are instances where you have no Bahamians to do a certain or to take up a certain position because we don’t have any persons qualified and hence why in many of those cases, you apply for persons outside of the country.

“So, it’s a case by case basis and it will be very onerous in practice to really carry that principle out. But the intention is good and I understand what the good director is trying to do.”

McCartney, whose family owns Wilmac’s Pharmacies, pointed to the shortage of Bahamian pharmacists for many years.

McCartney pointed out the cost of a work permit for a pharmacist for one year is around $9,000.

“If you don’t have pharmacists or there may be pharmacists in training i.e., they’re probably off to school or they’re in school over here doing something, you know, how does that work?” he said.

“How does that compute for you to have someone there understudying that pharmacists.”

In 2003, in response to the shortage, the government collaborated with the University of The Bahamas and other stakeholders to increase human resource capacity in the pharmacy industry. This included signing an agreement with the University of Technology Jamaica to franchise its four-year undergraduate pharmacy degree program at the then College of The Bahamas.